From left to right: Tesfaye Befikadu, General Manager of Harbu (winning prize); Her Royal Highness, the Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg; Roshaneh Zafar, Founder and Managing Director of the Kashf Foundation ©imedia/EIB

Harbu, an Ethiopian Microfinance Institution is the winner of the 3rd European Microfinance Award held on the 30th November at  the European Investment Bank. The Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, known for her staunch support to microfinance presented the award and the 100,000 euro prize to the laureate.  

The European Microfinance Award was created in 2005 in order to highlight and stimulate breakthroughs in the field of microfinance by the Luxembourgish Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Development Cooperation Directorate.

It is organized every two years by the Luxembourg Round Table on Microfinance, the European Microfinance Platform and the Luxembourgish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in order to reward an institution based in a developing country. Zakura Foundation in Morocco was the first institution to receive the prize in 2006, followed in 2008, by the Ethiopian microfinance institution, Buusaa Gonofaa.

The award involved a rigorous three phase selection process: in the first phase a Selection Committee from the European Microfinance Platform produced a short list of ten candidates. From this list, three Award finalists were selected by the Luxembourg Round Table on Microfinance. The jury was composed of EIB President, Philippe Maystadt and presided by Roshaneh Zafar, Founder and Managing Director of the Kashf Foundation, Pakistan's third largest microfinance institution.

Supporting 240 farmers

Harbu’s initiative involves financing the soybean value chain as a response to market demand generated by a shortage of cow milk in Jimma city, zone of Oromia regional state. The initiative started with 240 farmers and it was built on the basis of strengthening linkages between farmer marketing organisations as well as linkages with retailers and women’s associations in charge of processing and producing soya milk.

Through their project, Harbu have created market opportunities for producer farmers and employment opportunities for urban women and youth. Simultaneously, it contributed to the improvement in the nutritional constituents of families, especially children and women.

Harbu Microfinance Institution provides financial services for most of the actors across the chain starting from the individual producers to retailers. For example, it provides seed capital and lease financing for the purchase of soymilk machines. Overall, some 5000 farmers and a women’s association with 210 members are able to make a living from Harbu financed projects. “We intend to use the prize money to further upscale our project activities and reach out to more smallholders and poor women so that they can lead a better life” commented Tesfaye Befikadu, General Manager.